If we asked you what absenteeism is, chances are you’d answer in a heartbeat. But what if we asked you to define presenteeism? We bet you’d have a harder time. It’s time to learn about it, however, because presenteeism is a growing problem across businesses of all sizes and industries. And it’s expensive, costing employers an estimated $1.5 trillion per year.

Fortunately, technology offers an antidote. Let’s focus on a particular piece of communications technology that reduces presenteeism even as it increases employee productivity and well-being – business video conferencing solutions such as MiCloud Connect.

Presenteeism 101: What is it and how to spot it

Presenteeism: “A situation that arises when sick employees drag their forlorn carcasses into the office and waste everyone else’s time by hacking their way through the workday on an empty tank.” – Joe Queenan, journalist and commentator  

Even if you don’t know it, you’ve probably already suffered from presenteeism. After all, most of us have had days where we showed up for work but weren’t “really all there.” A recent survey found that presenteeism is on the rise, with 83 percent of respondents reporting it in their organization. In addition, a quarter of respondents said the issue had gotten worse compared to the previous year.

Presenteeism has a greater impact on organizations than absenteeism, so it’s important for companies to face it at full force. While an average of four days annually are lost to absenteeism, presenteeism represents an average of 57.5 unproductive working days each year, per employee. Its negative impact on productivity is 12 times greater than absenteeism.

In order to tackle presenteeism, organizations must first understand its causes:

Physical well-being: An employee may be under the weather but come into the office anyway. They may have a chronic illness that impacts their quality of life on a regular basis. Or, perhaps they were recently diagnosed with a major illness. Even if it’s treatable, the employee will still be distracted and have to deal with their course of treatment.

Mental well-being: Mental health can play an even bigger role in presenteeism because as it’s not something most people talk about, especially with their managers and co-workers. Employees with depression and anxiety may “show up” to work, but are often unable to perform their job duties to their full potential. Also, presenteeism is more common among younger employees, and mental health issues in young adults has increased significantly over the last decade, indicating that presenteeism will increase as well.

Personal/emotional issues: Perhaps you have a sick family member at home, or you recently lost a loved one. Maybe a serious relationship came to an end and you’re hurting. You or your family could feeling under financial stress. Or, you or someone you love may have been the victim of a crime. Any one of these issues is more than enough to distract from your workday.

Workplace issues: There are a range of factors within the workplace that can contribute to presenteeism, including problems with a co-worker or worry about job security. Dissatisfaction with work-life balance and flexibility in working hours also contribute to employees being stressed and less focused in the office.

When you sit down at your desk, it’s next to impossible to check such issues at the door. But people typically feel pressured to pretend everything’s all right and push through whatever they’re struggling with. Unfortunately, that often causes the problem to linger and have a greater long-term effect on productivity.

“There’s so much emphasis on being seen, rather than your output . . . as a proxy for how committed you are to the organization.” – Stephen Bevan, head of Human Resources Research Development, UK Institute for Employment Studies

The impact of presenteeism extends beyond the office walls. For example, presenteeism can decrease customer service levels and you even run the risk of losing customers in extreme cases. Distracted workers who deal directly with customers – whether by phone, email or in-person – may not deliver the level of service your company’s known for.

It can be challenging to identify presenteeism. After all, employees are showing up for work – they’re just not getting as much done. Here are the top 10 warning signs that presenteeism may be in your midst:

1. Arriving to work late

2. Leaving work early

3. Decrease in competitive drive

4. Lack of attention to detail

5. Decreased participation in projects and meetings

6. Lack of concern for outcomes of projects and tasks

7. Falling asleep at work

8. Increased problems or disagreements with co-workers

9. Decrease in productivity

10. Any noticeable change from an employee’s typical behavior

Business video conferencing: The best medicine for presenteeism

Now that you know how to spot presenteeism, you can fight it head on. The best approach depends on the specific employee’s situation. For example, someone battling depression requires a certain amount of personal support, or even time off in order to come back to full capacity.

Regardless of the force behind presenteeism, business video conferencing plays a role in the solution. The technology’s flexibility enables employees to give proper attention to both personal and work issues, increasing productivity and overall well-being. Let’s look at each cause of presenteeism and how business video conferencing is the best antidote.

Find out more about the benefits of video conferencing here. >

1. Physical well-being: When employees are dealing with physical health issues of any kind, video conferencing allows them to stay fully connected with co-workers and customers from the comfort of their home. If they commute to work and have a doctor’s appointment in the middle of the day, they can be “present” at the big sales meeting while still tending to their health and wellness. Single-click access like that from MiCloud Connect makes it quick and easy to join a video conference if they’re running late from an appointment. Plus, they don’t need to worry about remembering phone numbers and login details when they have other, more pressing issues on their minds.

Quickly compare features and pricing of MiCloud Connect plans here. >

2. Mental well-being: Video conferencing provides employees with the option to work remotely when they don’t feel up to in-person meetings. Solutions with features such as an agenda tracker help keep them focused and guide them through meetings when they’d otherwise be distracted.

3. Personal/emotional issues: Flexibility is a lifesaver when someone’s caring for a sick family member or struggling with personal issues. They may need to work from home without notice, which can make rescheduling meetings next to impossible. Ad hoc video conferencing with MiCloud Connect lets employees stay close to home and still keep their appointments. A simple and intuitive interface lets them get their work done quickly and properly, so they can balance work-life commitments.

Learn how Mitel’s cloud business phone systems get the job done using voice, text, video and more. >

Workplace issues: If an employee’s having issues with the person sitting next to them, a day or two working remotely may improve their mood and let them get more work done. Video conferencing makes this possible. Similarly, if they tend to work long hours but don’t want to miss their daughter’s soccer game, video conferencing technology keeps them fully engaged with the office without missing the winning goal.

Don’t let your company fall victim to the presenteeism bug. Fight back with a business video conferencing solution from Mitel. Give employees the power and flexibility to meet the demands of work and life. Learn how business collaboration software from Mitel keeps productivity and employee self-care at an all-time high.

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